Porto Seguro, Brazil: Shrimp stew on the catwalk of alcohol
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The first thing that hit me when we arrived in Porto Seguro, Bahia, was how COLOURFUL it is. Every house is painted a different colour, and the vibrant hues continue into the centre where you’ll find streets lined and lined with bunting and flags. It has all the hallmarks of a typical Bahia town, which you can’t help but fall immediately in love with.
While Porto Seguro itself does not have much of a beach (there’s one a little to the north of the centre, but it’s nothing to write home about) it has easy access to plenty of beautiful beaches either side of the town.
One of the best things to do in Porto Seguro is definitely to take the ferry across the stretch of water to Arraial d’Ajuda, where you’ll find some of the best beaches and viewpoints.
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Historically, Porto Seguro has been important in the state of Bahia and Brazil as a country because it was one of the first European towns in Brazil. From its founding in the 1500’s, the city was under constant threat of attack from indigenous tribes by land and European colonisers along what’s known as the Discovery Coast, hence the need to make it so ‘seguro’.
Later, Bahia became a trade hub for African slaves, which explains why the local population of Porto Seguro / Bahia today has such an Afro-influenced culture. While it functions as a fishing town, lots of the city’s income is based in the tourism industry. This destination is a must for any North Brazil travel itinerary.
Nowadays, Porto Seguro is a city known for its partying. The seafront offers a row of makeshift cocktail stalls referred to lovingly as ‘Passarela do Alcool’ or ‘Catwalk of Alcohol’. It’s an extremely popular place for students to come and celebrate their graduation, and Brazilian families love to holiday in the area. Never a dull moment in Porto Seguro, Bahia!
Where to stay in Porto Seguro, Bahia
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the action happens around the town centre, so try and get yourself around there! You won’t want to be too close to the seafront unless you’re hoping to join in the weekend parties with the teenagers (we did it, don’t judge). Pousada Jangadeiro is in a pretty perfect spot, close to the restaurants, bars and shops without being woken up at 3am.
If you want to go even more peaceful, we highly recommend Hotel Estalagem. Staff are super helpful, the breakfast is EXCELLENT and there’s a pool to help you cool down during the hot Bahia afternoons. I really loved my stay there!
Those after a hostel should definitely be checking out Ventura Hostel – just look at that rating!
For more of a resort vibe, head up the coast to the Paraíso dos Pataxós or Praia Mutá areas. While the latter is more relaxed, in Paraíso do Pataxós, expect flowing bars, interactive entertainment and lots of excited Brazilians on their holibobs!
You can, of course, also stay across the water on Arraial d’Ajuda. This jut of land offers a very small-town feel, though a little more tourism-focused than much of Porto Seguro. There are plenty of places to stay on Arraial d’Ajuda, but I recommend Naturalíssima for its excellent location, outstanding reviews and cutesy décor.
6 awesome things to do in Porto Seguro & beyond
1. Cross over to Arraial d’Ajuda
A little further south along the coast, Arraial d’Ajuda is a colourful town on a hill just the other side of the Buraném River. To get there from Porto Seguro, you’ll need to first cross to the jut of palm-treed land that you’ll see from the sea walls of Porto Seguro town. Luckily, it’s just a quick 10-minute ferry ride across the water. The ferry (balsa) costs around £1 depending on the time of day you go, and leaves a few times an hour until midnight.
Once you’re over the water, you’ll need to hop onto one of the colectivo minibuses that are parked to the right, which will take you up the massive hill to Arraial d’Ajuda town, or get off halfway if you only want to see the (very beautiful) beach.
The town is definitely worth visiting though, as its quaint little tourist shops are a delight and there’s the most picturesque opportunity to make a wish whilst tying a Bahia bracelet (Fita Do Senhor do Bonfim de Bahía) on the wall of the Capela de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda. Churrascaria e Self-Service do Joildo on the corner of the main street of shops offers an amazing weight-charged buffet, complete with BBQ picanha. Dribble.
You can also take other buses from the Arraial d’Ajuda port to beach towns along the coast, such as Trancoso and Caraíva, though these are much less frequent so do plan ahead.
2. Get yourself up to the Centro Historico
Though the streets near the shore may seem as beautiful as you’d ever need, the real beauty actually starts up in the 16th century Porto Seguro Centro Historico, which sits up on the hill to the north of the new centre. It’s a half an hour walk that gets steep at times, so we suggest hailing a taxi if you have difficulties going uphill.
It’s free to walk around, but all the placards are in Portuguese, so you may want to book onto a walking tour to learn about the history in-depth. It’s up here that you’ll find the next few Porto Seguro points of interest.
3. Learn stuff in the Museu de Porto Seguro
Since the Porto Seguro / Bahia area is so important to Brazil’s recent history, there’s an awful lot to be said in the Museu de Porto Seguro. Set in the old town hall and jail of the town, this ‘Discovery Museum’ has all sorts of exhibitions about indigenous culture, Portuguese conquest and colonial life in Bahía. The museum is open 9-12pm and 2-6pm Monday to Friday.
4. Look out past the Farol de Porto Seguro
The Porto Seguro Lighthouse is perhaps not the most inspirationally designed in the world, and you may not be able to climb inside the structure, but it’s sat on one hell of a viewpoint out over turquoise seas so still worth the visit.
5. Hit up some Porto Seguro parties
Porto Seguro is known amongst Brazilians as the place that teenagers go to party after their exams – sort of like a cleaner version of Magaluf or Gili T. We were there during the end-of-exam week, when thousands of 16-18 year-olds flock to Porto Seguro to celebrate graduating, but to be honest apart from a fun crowd around the row of cocktail stalls by the sea, their being there had no real effect on the vibe of the town.
They mostly stuck to the Paraíso dos Pataxós area where you’ll find big resort bars like Toa Toa and Axé Moi along the beach just outside of Porto Seguro. There was a designated festival ground for students called Forma away from the main city.
As we were there on a weekend, we did chance upon some street parties for Porto Seguro locals down by the fishing docks. This was an awesome collection of small stalls and speakers pounding as people danced in the road – twerking 3 year-olds included. It’s hard to know the frequency of these street parties as they’re usually for special occasions and festivals; this one was for Bahia independence day 2nd July), and you can almost be sure to see street parties in Porto Seguro during the Junina festivities throughout June.
6. Explore the towns to the north of Porto Seguro
While you can do this using the public bus route that heads north, we recommend that you instead hire a car (usually cheapest with Priceline!) and then you can make the stops that you want to along the way.
Not far along the coast is the hubbub of Coroa Vermelha, which has an interesting museum on indigenous history and culture, and an artisanal market to a browse amongst the small clothes and souvenir shops. Coroa Vermelha is famous for the sand bar (that’s usually only visible in the mornings) and also a few long beaches lined with small locally-run bars.
Honestly, when we went at around 2pm Praia Mutá was already kind of grim, with the sand bar not visible, and plastic chairs crammed together in uber-tight rows. Heading to the other side of where the sand bar would be to Praia de Coroa Vermelha was a much more peaceful experience.
Santa Cruz Cabrália is a quaint little town an hour and a bit drive north of Porto Seguro, and it’s a lovely place to chill in a coffee shop and watch fishermen bring in their catch on Rua 23 de Maio. Those with the legs for it should definitely climb the stairs up to the Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora da Conceição and Jesuit ruins, from which they’ll have views of the whole town and beautiful coastline as the Camurugi river meets the sea. Whilst up there, rest for a tick and enjoy a portion of acarajé from one of the stalls, a traditional Bahian snack that is not to be missed.
Where to eat in Porto Seguro, Bahia
Porto Seguro, and the state of Bahia, is famous for its seafood dishes. The meals here are insane, and pretty cheap if you can find a place away from the main strip. Here are our recommendations of where to eat in Porto Seguro, Brazil.
This is a small family-run restaurant on the outskirts of Porto Seguro centre. They offer a whole menu of traditional Bahia meals – I absolutely recommend trying the Moqueca de Camarão (to-die-for shrimp stew) or Bobó (cassava cream dish). Most of the dishes here are meant to be shared between 2 or more people, as is normal across much of Brazil.
Sabor & Art Pizzaria
Interesting art, decent pizza. This place stuffed us good’n’proper, and the prices were pretty reasonable. It’s very central so you can head straight from here to a cocktail stall on the Alcohol catwalk 😉
Proper hangover food; Restaurante Mama’s is known across the city for its slightly odd towers of compacted French fries. Don’t expect anything elegant, but you won’t leave hungry. They also have a fair vegan menu.
How to get to Porto Seguro, Bahia
Porto Seguro does have its own airport, and although internal flights are fairly expensive within Brazil, they are at least frequent from various Brazilian cities like São Paulo (though interestingly there are only 2 direct flights a week from Rio de Janeiro). Alternatively, regular night buses leave from Porto Seguro to many other places in Bahia, though connecting through Salvador or Vitória will give you more out-of-state options. Taxis are easy to flag down in Porto Seguro itself.
How long to stay in Porto Seguro, Bahia: 3-4 days
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